Advice to other first generation college students
Well, my time in Mérida is unfortunately coming to a close. As I reflect on the past few months here, I can’t even begin to explain how thrilled I have been to explore this side of Mexico. I got the opportunity to travel, to meet and take classes with local students, and meet people with whom I became great friends. I’ve mentioned this before, but when I was younger we only travelled to Mexico State to visit family members. Our reasoning was always that, if we were going to travel to the country, we might as well take advantage of every moment and spend it with our family. It just didn’t feel right to be in the country and bypass seeing them. I’m glad that I have been exposed to some other realities and excited to share them with my family.
There are a couple of things I’ve learned about Merida and being in Mexico. Some of these have to do with being Latina and others are just some general knowledge I’ve picked up along the way. Hopefully these bits of advice can come in handy to future study abroad students.
- Learn to use public transportation
- Getting around the city is actually quite simple, but the earlier you learn how to take the buses, the easier your time will be! Sometimes I would avoid going places because I didn’t want to figure out how to get there, and now I regret not having been so adventurous. You’re only here for a few months, so enjoy all the time here!
- Be patient
- It really helped me that there were Latinas in the group who understood some of my experiences. Sometimes you will have experiences, and will want to share them with someone. If you’re the only one with your particular background in your group, your fellow study abroad members won’t always understand you. Be patient. It might require more explaining, but know that even your presence here is a step towards getting more minority students to study abroad.
- Prepare your answers
- Where are you from? This was always the hardest question for me to answer. I never wanted to give a long-winded answer, so I would just say I went to school in Chicago. Then, people would ask why I spoke Spanish so well. I then had to explain that my parents are Mexican and that I speak Spanish at home. I grew up in Nebraska, and a lot of people generally don’t know where that is, so often times I just had to say that it’s a state in the middle of the U.S. People have the impression I still don’t always know how to respond to this question, but it’s best to be prepared for when it comes.
- If you’re feeling lost, say so!
- There are a lot, A LOT of group projects. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, especially when you’re schedule is so different from local students. At the beginning of the semester, there are a lot of excursions on the weekends, and your group members will want to meet to work on stuff during that time. Communicate your schedule with them. Let them know that you want to do the work, but that it might have to be on your own time. If you don’t say anything, they will just think you are uninterested or don’t care about the project.
I hope these bits of advice are helpful. The semester is winding down, but there’s still a lot of schoolwork that needs to get done! I will definitely miss my host family, but I’m also excited to spend the holidays with the rest of my family here in Mexico.